I visited Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art recently, to see an installation by world renowned American music artist, Bill Fontana. He had placed cameras and sensitive microphones on the iconic Finnieston crane, which would then be beamed back to the Gallery, allowing us to "listen to Glasgow". What a fascinating idea, I thought, as I excitedly contemplated my experience. When I arrived to an empty foyer, where I knew the exhibit was installed, I was hugely disappointed to be told it had finished the day before.
Even though my heart wasn't really in it, I decided to take a walk around the gallery anyway. I'm so glad I did as I happened upon a video installation by two Swiss artists, Peter Fischli & David Weiss. Described by the New York Times as a "masterpiece", the installation is a 30 minute film of a series of chain reactions, filmed over 3 days in their Zurich studio. I found it mesmerising - you can see it for yourself here.
It made me wonder, as I often do - what is art? Who has the final say in whether something is art or not? It's a subject I have discussed at length with people whose opinions I respect and value. And yet, we mostly never agree. Tracey Emin is a perfect example. I don't know anyone else who likes her work, but at times I find I really connect with what she produces. For me, I believe it's how something makes you think and feel when you experience it that makes it art. I realise that isn't a definition, but it's all I've got and I believe it gets to the heart of the matter.
I think art is something that enables us to celebrate being human. Artists represent how they think about things and in doing so, they give us the opportunity to do the same. I believe it's as simple as that. I don't believe analysis and/or enjoyment of art requires huge intelligence; a window into the artist's soul or a knowledge of art per se. I believe it merely requires us to experience and connect. And anyone can do that. For me, it's a wonderful platform that can help us to make sense of the world. For artists, I'm sure it's an exciting, difficult and equally wonderful process of engaging with the outside world, mixing it all up in their heads and producing their version. Sometimes for others to experience.
I have huge admiration for artists but what I admire most is their willingness to share their view of the world. It's one thing to think differently, but it's quite another to have the guts to share that sometimes unpopular view with the rest of us. Whether it's for money, gratification, or to fulfill some other need, I think it takes courage to court criticism.
I believe, whether I like a particular piece of artistic endeavour or not is less important than my admiration for the brave artists who continue to inspire people like me and make me think about things differently. Thank you Tracey Emin, Bill Fontana and every last one of you.